People worldwide are “going green”. But for everyday teenagers, finding a way to help preserve the environment can be very difficult. One easy way to help the save the world is by not washing your favorite pair of old blue jeans. This discovery caused many hygienic individuals some alarm; could that possibly be sanitary?

It’s a good idea not to wash those jeans. Credit: Kathy Honiker.

According to a study done by Rachel McQueen, a human ecology lecturer at the University of Alberta in Canada, it is. Her results showed that jeans don’t gather any more bacteria from months of wear without washing them than in the first few weeks without washing them, according to Canada’s CBC News on January 20, 2011.  

The study she conducted was simple. One of her students, Josh Le, age 20, didn’t wash his favorite pair of jeans for 15 months straight. McQueen measured the amount of bacteria on the jeans after the 15 months, then she had Le wash and wear the jeans again (without washing) for two weeks. When the two weeks were up, she measured again. The results were astonishing. 

"I thought that the bacterial counts would be relatively high [after 15 months]. But I was quite surprised. After a shorter time of wearing the jeans the bacterial counts were roughly about the same." McQueen told the New Zealand Herald

The highest bacteria count on the pair of jeans was between 8,500 and 10,000 bacterial units per square centimeter, and they were almost all located in the crotch area, McQueen told CBC News. 1,000 bacteria fit on the head of a pin, so that’s only eight to ten pin heads of bacteria on the entire pair of jeans. Also, there were only five kinds of skin bacteria in the jeans, and none were harmful. No E. coli was present, and levels of bacteria weren’t high enough to cause harmful health effects, according to CBC news.  

But just how beneficial would not washing your jeans as often be? Levi-Strauss, one of the main blue jean makers, investigated how much energy could be reduced by washing jeans less. The company concluded that by washing jeans once in a month after a long period of wear, consumers could reduce their energy use by about 40% and water use by about 35%, according to the January 21, 2011, New Zealand Herald.

Think about how many times teenagers wear their favorite pairs of jeans in a month. How much water and energy is used to wash those jeans? The average home spends about $70 a month on electricity, according to, a web site devoted to finding out the nation’s average of utility use. Since washing your jeans less reduces energy use by 40%, households participating in this will only be spending about $42 a month on their electric bill. That averages out to only $504 a year, as opposed to the original $840—an extra $336 a year for simply doing less laundry. 

With so many benefits, it seems like an undeniably good idea. But how many teenagers would actually be willing to do it? A survey of 100 students at Fort Zumwalt North High School in O’Fallon, MO found that 53% would stop washing their jeans to save money and help the environment. Many of those students said that they already don’t wash their jeans after every wear, and the survey just gave them more of a reason to do so.

“I wash mine every other wear, that’s what you’re supposed to do anyway.” Andy Mangrum, a freshman at North stated.

Junior Alexi Chadbourne was also for the notion. “That sounds like a great idea! Half the laundry I do is jeans; it would save a lot in water and electricity.”

The survey also changed the minds of a few students, like sophomore Mitch Williams. “Right now i wash them after every use, no matter what, but knowing that it can help with water bills and the environment would make me wear them more before washing,” says Williams.

While some agree with the idea, many people still remain unconvinced. At least 34% of the surveyed students were unsure if doing laundry less often was worth it, and 13% said the mere thought of not washing their jeans was disgusting.

“Not washing your jeans? Ewww,” exclaimed freshman Justin Roberts. “They’d be so rank.”

Nolan Vague, a junior, agreed. “I don’t care about the bacteria count, think about the sweat and body funk smell.” 

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  1. I know for sure I wouldnt go over a week without washing my jeans. I do agree however that they dont need to be washed after every use but I couldnt go weeks without washing them. Id feel unsanitery.

  2. That’s Very Helpful Information because i myself have alot of jeans but washing them could take a bunch of water so i think i’ll take that into considerations[url][/url] next time

  3. I personally would not go along with this plan because I don’t believe in wearing stuff more than once without them being washed first. Its a no-brainer when you really think about it. As a girl, its important to keep your hygiene on a natural high. So i would definetly not participate in the project

  4. i lovee that yourr worriedd about thee plantt .. but i don’t think people have to wash there cloths every day maybe once a week or soo ….. but noww i am not going to wash myy jeanss everyy ware !
    thank’ss !
    andd great job writting thiss ! :congrate

  5. this artical was very intresting there is a lot to think about after reading this i can tell that it could reduce bills and things like that but how can it cut down on someones carbon foot print? That is something im intrested.

  6. Well done, Kathy! (I realize this comment is wayyyy late) I love how you took an extremely relevant topic (teens wearing and washing their jeans) and challenged a common ideal of regular washing for hygiene with the results of a scientific study.

    I do have several questions though, after reading this article: Were her findings peer reviewed- did other scientists examine her methods and results and approve that the experiment was thoroughly controlled and conclusive? Has this experiment been repeated- I ask this mainly because of the small sample size (one student)? Finally, I am curious about the percentage Levi Strauss claimed a household’s energy bill could decrease by washing jeans less. Where could I find out more about that study? Did it refer to overall energy use or simply energy use due to using the washer/dryer?

    All that said, it was a fun read and I hope you had fun writing it!

  7. This article was very interesting, I enjoyed reading it and agree with the author’s revolutionary idea. Thank you for posting.

  8. This article really drew me in and caught my attention. For someone who washes their clothes almost four times a week, it’s an eye opener. Sure the thought of not washing them after one use can be difficult to warm up to at first, but im sure i could get past that after realizing it’s saving my parents more money.